If you’re trying to lose weight, you’ve probably heard a lot about metabolism: How people blessed with fast metabolisms can shed pounds at the drop of the hat, while those with slower metabolisms have more trouble staying at a healthy weight. While there is some truth to those scenarios, metabolism is more complicated than that – and there are some definite steps you can control to help your metabolism along. Metabolism actually refers to the amount of calories that an individual burns in a day doing the basic activities that keep them alive, such as maintaining body temperature, breathing, and circulating blood. Your metabolism is determined by three main factors:

  • How much muscle you have, since muscle burns more calories than fat.
  • Whether you’re male or female, since women’s metabolisms are slower than men’s as their bodies are programmed to hold on to excess fat.
  • Your age, since metabolism slows as you get older and, for women, especially decreases during menopause.

Determining Your Metabolic Rate

Medical weight loss doctors can measure your metabolism with machines that tell you how much you can burn in a day with and without added physical activity. They do this by calculating your RMR, or resting metabolic rate, which is the number of calories you burn daily at your current activity level.

Some people are better at conserving their energy and don’t require a lot of calories for their day-to-day activities – meaning that if they consume more than they naturally burn, they will put on extra weight. That said, people can prevent this weight gain by monitoring their food and drink intake and getting regular exercise to burn more calories.

Surprisingly, as people lose weight their metabolisms can actually decrease by as much as 20 percent. Exercise, both aerobic and anaerobic, can also help to counteract this by keeping the metabolism stimulated.

Top Tips to Increase Your Metabolism

Here are other things you can try to jumpstart your metabolic rate:

Lower Your Fat Percentage. If you increase your percentage of muscle, your fat percentage will decrease. And since muscle burns more calories than fat – a pound of muscle can burn up to nine times the calories as a pound of fat – your metabolism will increase, too. Your medical weight loss physician can conduct a body composition analysis, letting you know your body’s percentage of muscle, fat, and water, and then suggest ways to reduce your fat percentage and increase your muscle, such as starting a exercise program that includes strength training.

Eat More Whole and Natural Foods. Processed foods will leave you feeling sluggish and can raise blood sugar levels. Sticking to fresh foods like fruits, vegetables, and lean proteins can help give you more energy and allow your body to burn calories more efficiently.

Move More. Adding any type of activity to your day can help increase the number of calories you burn. It can be easier than you think – try taking a stroll during your lunch hour, climbing the stairs instead of using the elevator, or parking further from your office and walking a little more. Your metabolism will get a boost in the hours following any cardiovascular activity.

Spice It Up. Some studies have suggested that eating hot peppers can help increase your metabolism. Talk to your Center for Medical Weight Loss physician about Capsiate, a new hot pepper pill only available through physicians’ offices in the United States. Capsiate may help speed your metabolism without some of the negative effects associated with eating peppers, like flushing.